From my recent visits to local corn fields, I have been surprised by the rapid decline in this year's crop quality. In a sampling of corn fields in an area that has not received the flooding rains that others have. 20-100 percent of the stalks FAILED the "push" strength test. As you might expect, this is not good at all.

In the last week, a number of corn belt universities have recommending that farmers check their corn fields for ear and stalk rots. After my field visits, I must agree that stalk quality is some of the worst I have seen in recent years.

Have you surveyed your pastures? Do any areas need to be renovated? It is too late, this year, to do any frost seeding in those area. However, there is still time to use a no-till drill to plant grass or legumes in any “thin” areas needing more forage plants. Remember a legume in a pasture adds high quality forage and extra nitrogen for the grass.

We have a number of important deadlines approaching for most of us in farming. Our deadline for choosing our risk management or crop insurance plans is on March 15. By the end of March, we have to decide whether to reallocate our farms’ program base acres; whether to update our program crop yields for the 2014 Farm Bill and choose one of the 2014 Farm Bill program elections.

Have you noticed that your field is not draining as fast as it did a decade ago? Do your yields vary greatly between a "dry" year and a "normal" one? Have you checked your soil for deep soil compaction or subsoil compaction? Compaction that is deeper than 8 inches.

The use of heavier equipment, multiple field operations, operating in less than ideal conditions due to time constrictions, and the consolidation of crops used in a rotation, all provide elements for "more extensive and deeper compaction" according to research out of the University of Nebraska.

This is the title of an article written by Darrell Good, Dept of Ag and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois. In the article, Dr. Good points out that corn prices rose 90 cents for mid-June to Mid-July on lower than expected USDA estimate of June 1 stocks and production concerns stemming from record June rainfall in much of the eastern Corn Belt.

Two recent articles on the subject of farmland prices and rental rates showed the effect that lower grain prices can have on farmland values.

In the past ten days, the number of Avian Influenza infected flocks in the Midwest has increased dramatically. No Avian Influenza has been confirmed in Illinois, but it has been confirmed in the bordering states of Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. This disease does not affect human health but can be deadly to domestic chickens and turkeys.

I was out in area corn and soybean fields recently and the crops look good considering the growing season so far in 2015.